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Bannon: 'Fiasco' Is Plot to Stop People Who Want the Wall

He has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2020 4:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – Steve Bannon, who has been indicted on charges of scamming donors to a "We Build the Wall" campaign, blames his political foes for his arrest. "This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall," President Trump's former chief strategist said after leaving Manhattan federal court Thursday, per the the New York Post. The 66-year-old was freed on $5 million bond after pleading not guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors say hundreds of thousands of dollars people donated to a campaign to build a border wall ended up in Bannon's pockets. More:

  • He was arrested on Chinese billionaire's yacht. Bannon was arrested by federal agents at 7:15am Thursday on a yacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. NBC takes a look at Bannon's connections to the mysterious billionaire, "a self-styled crusader against Chinese Communist corruption who has drawn the ire of the Chinese government but has also been sued by other Chinese dissidents." Federal agents are also investigating a media company linked to both Bannon and Guo.

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  • The alleged scam. The New York Times looks at how Bannon and three other men, including Iraq vet and motivational speaker Brian Kolfage, allegedly used $25 million raised as a "private piggy bank." Donors were promised that all the money raised would go toward efforts to build a border wall, but prosecutors say Bannon received $1 million from the group and used hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal expenses.
  • Bannon's "spectacular fall." Politico looks at what it calls the "spectacular fall" of one of the architects of Trump's 2016 win. He was seen as a "powerful, frightening figure" in the administration, but ended up departing the White House after just seven months.
  • Manhattan prosecutor's office demonstrates its independence. Analysts say the arrest of Bannon shows that the Manhattan federal prosecutor's office has retained its independence from Washington, DC, despite the recent abrupt firing of Geoffrey S. Berman, the US. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "It shows that the Trump administration cannot fully protect the president’s former associates from federal criminal prosecution simply by firing US attorneys like Geoffrey Berman who honor their responsibility to seek impartial justice," Bruce Green, a former prosecutor in the office, tells the AP.
  • Spotlight on Postal Service agents. Bannon was arrested by the US Postal Service Inspection Service. The Washington Post takes a look at the history of the Postal Service's little-known investigative arm, which is "the country’s first and oldest federal law enforcement agency." The paper explains "the agency’s mission dovetails with virtually any crime that involves the transit of mail," from drugs sent by mail to mail fraud. Vox notes it's not yet clear why the USPIS made the arrest since the charges Bannon faces—conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud—don't have an obvious connection to the mail.
(Read more Steve Bannon stories.)

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